Swimmers, Be Safe This Year

June 2017 News Web Exclusive

With the summer heating up and more of us jumping into the lake, BoatUS reminds everyone to be careful where you jump. With the tragic losses of an 11-year-old New Jersey girl and 19-year-old Ohio man over the past weekend, it’s a poignant time to go over these safety tips again in order to hopefully avoid future electrocution accidents from happening.

There are two types of electrical swimming deaths: electrocution and electric shock drowning (ESD). Here are the differences. Electrocution can take place in either fresh or saltwater if a swimmer touches energized metal dock fittings, boats or other structures with faulty alternating current (AC) wiring. ESD, on the other hand, can happen when AC gets into fresh or brackish water from faulty wiring and passes through a swimmer—without having to physically touch a boat or dock structure. One of its early warning signs is tingling in the swimmer’s body.

Luckily, both dangers can be prevented the same way. Here are six BoatUS tips to keep in mind:

     1. Never swim around boats and docks that use electricity.
     2. Post "no swimming" signs.
     3. Have a qualified electrician with experience in dock electrical service inspect your private dock annually.
     4. Install ground-fault protection on your boat and private dock.
     5. Ask your marina if they have installed ground-fault protection, and if the electrical system is inspected and        
     tested annually just in case someone falls overboard. No one should ever swim in a marina.
     6. Periodically test your boat for electrical leakage into the water.

If you see a swimmer who looks distressed near a boat dock, wait to jump in. Instead, shut off power to the dock at the breaker panel and disconnect any power cable to the boat. If you can’t shut off power, remember the “reach, throw, row, but don’t go” mantra—use a boat hook, oar, or tossed floatation device to help the endangered swimmer.

If you have more questions, you can swing by the BoatUS Electric Shock Drowning Resource Center at www.BoatUS.com/Seaworthy/ESD. 

Photo credited to Brian Fitzgerald

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